If you’ve tried to watch Harry Potter at some point, or added it to your HBO Max watchlist, you may have noticed that the movie collection is randomly (and routinely) unavailable to watch on the streaming service. There is a reason for that.
Even though Warner Bros. Discovery, the owner of HBO Max, owns the Harry Potter movies, there is a deal in place with NBCUniversal that is stopping you from sometimes watching the movies on HBO Max.
Back in 2016, NBCUniversal struck a deal with Warner Bros. for the exclusive TV rights to the movies. The deal went into effect on July 1st, 2018 and runs for seven years. The understanding is that it will eventually expire at the end of April 2025. For reference, Disney previously held the rights to the movies before its distribution deal came to an end in 2018 and NBCUniversal took over.
In spite of this arrangement, HBO Max does still routinely carry the Harry Potter collection. According to a CNBC report from 2021, the two companies negotiated a deal to share the digital rights, which is why it is sometimes possible to watch the movies on the streaming service.
Unfortunately, the deal does also mean that there will be times when the movies are unavailable to stream with an HBO Max subscription.
If not on HBO Max, check Peacock
If the Harry Potter movies are not available to stream on HBO Max then it is almost guaranteed that they will be available to stream on Peacock. NBCUniversal owns Peacock, so as well as occasionally showing the movies on USA, they are also routinely available to watch on demand through the company’s streaming service.
Essentially, the collection seems to bounce between the two streaming services on a regular basis. How long they remain on either service is a little unclear, but they do tend to be available for about 2-3 months before switching. Either way, if the movies are not available on one, they usually can be found on the other.
If already an HBO Max subscriber but not signed up to Peacock, plans start at $4.99 per month, making it a cheaper option than HBO Max to watch the Harry Potter movies. Similar to HBO Max, Peacock offers two main plans. The $4.99 Premium plan is an ad-supported tier, and the $9.99 per month Premium Plus plan offers ad-free access.
Even though it may be annoying to have to constantly check which streaming service the movies are available on, that is the current reality of the situation. The distribution agreement was made before either HBO Max or Peacock launched, and the situation seems unlikely to change until the current deal comes to an end.
While it is easy to see this simply as an effect of a deal made before streaming took off like it has, things are not quite that straightforward. For example, Warner Bros. Discovery recently removed a number of popular shows from HBO Max before agreeing distribution deals with both Roku and Tubi to allow them to carry the titles on their respective free streaming services.
A move which suggests that distribution agreements are likely to keep affecting where popular shows and movies can be streamed, and irrespective of who actually owns them.